Cincinnati pop-punkers Mixtapes are at it again, bringing some high-energy songs that are just plain fun. In the event that you are unfamiliar with Mixtapes, I like to characterize Ryan and Maura’s signature sound as a “Juno” soundtrack song gone pop-punk: charming lyrics and vocals often backed by fast, in-your-face instrumentals.
Mixtapes have benefited from experience working with bands such as The Wonder Years, Fireworks and Balance and Composure. They have combined their previous release of Maps with their newest, Companions, into the appropriately titled Maps & Companions. They have reworked some songs from Maps, utilizing a full band for previously acoustic songs, and have added new songs as well. Ultimately, if you dig Mixtapes, you’ll be plenty pleased to fist bump along to all fifteen tracks.
You may notice that both “And If We Both Fail?” and “Orange Yellow” are on the album twice; this is, again, just the Maps versions and the re-worked Companions versions that utilize a full band. Furthermore, “Cassettes” may ring a bell as being originally Maps’ “Nothing Can Kill the Grimace.”
The album kicks off with “Sunrise,” setting the stage for the rest of the album. This song gradually gaining steam could absolutely be compared to the beginning of a day; if “Sunrise” is the dawn of the album, “Sunset” is easily the dusk. This track is much more downtempo, focusing on Maura’s light vocals which are perfectly complemented by Ryan’s backup vocals.
“And If We Both Fail?” utilizes great guitar and keyboard lines, really showcasing the duo’s great guy/girl harmonies and clever lyricism. “Road Apples” picks up the pace with a nice beat and quick, combined vocals. Similarly, pseudo-title-track “Maps” comes out swinging, just as “Moonglow” does.
“Cassettes (NCKTG)” easily shines as one of the strongest tracks on the album. The vocals and instrumentals are equally catchy, and will have your head bobbing and your toe tapping. You and your friends will inevitably be screaming “Fuck the world!” in unison by the end of this track. “I Accept That” similarly shines as both a catchy and relatable song.
Overall, Maps & Companions is chock full of lighthearted, relatable and heartfelt songs. Listeners simultaneously feel as if they are hearing songs about their own lives and feel as if they are becoming best friends with the guy and gal singing them. Many songs will be especially relatable to those listeners who have ever felt alienated or displaced; but, don’t get me wrong – these feelings are portrayed in the most upbeat manner possible. Mixtapes truly bring the same dance-inducing guy/girl pop-punk harmonies that made you fall in love with them in the first place. And they know they haven’t changed: “I haven’t changed at all, which is something that I’m proud of cause it’s more than you can say.” If you like Mixtapes, you’ll be playing Maps & Companions over and over.